Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wakey Wakey!

In the United States, most people know February 2nd not as Candlemas, but as Groundhog Day. This curious acknowledgement refers to a common earth-dwelling mammal, a type of marmot.

According to folklore, if it is cloudy when the groundhog emerges from his burrow on this day, it will leave the burrow signifying that Spring is soon to follow. If it is sunny and the groundhog sees his shadow, he will return to his burrow and Winter will continue for another six weeks. The holiday came from the Pennsylvanian Dutch community, who brought from Europe the belief that hibernating creatures can predict the arrival of Spring. But the original ideas go back way further, with links to the Catholic celebration of Candlemas, which commemorates Mary's purification, the feast of St. Birgid, and in its earliest incarnation, the ancient Pagan festival of Imbolc, which is associated with fertility and weather divination.

The little boy we were babysitting was fascinated by the media frenzy surrounding this small furry animal, so we spent a good part of the afternoon playing groundhog. This involved all kinds of burrowing, foraging for food, checking the weather and singing Winter and Spring songs. No time for candles... maybe tomorrow.

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

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